Txting Kids vs. Grammar Police

Posted on September 17, 2008

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I've been watching this debate for a while now.  The one about whether kids are better or worse at grammar and spelling now than they (we) were in the days before texting became commonplace.  Of course it's also on my mind with respect to the presidential elections in which one candidate is perfectly capable of sending a text message and the other… not so much.

Here's my take:

When I was a kid, we passed notes in class.  We didn't have cell phones or text messages, we had notebooks and paper.  Foreign concept, I know.  The point is that there's no way we used complete sentences and proper grammar in those notes.  It was really more about being quick and efficient and looking cool.  So, we spelled words wrong on purpose and shortened others that shouldn't technically be abbreviated.  It's not a new concept, it's just taken different forms over the years — from shorthand to notes to cell phones and yes, blogs too.

So, to tie this into the conversation about marketing yourself, I would argue that kids entering the workforce today are more equipped to appropriately tailor the voice of their written and spoken work to different audiences.  For example, a kid that's been texting for years knows they shouldn't speak to their professors or parents in the same voice they use to text their friends.  That's valuable to me as someone that hires kids out of school.  Sometimes, I need you to be quick and efficient and other times I need you to write in solid business tone and language – if you can tell the difference, you're more than a step ahead.  If you can master all of those different tones, you're well on your way to taking my job.

So, there will always be kids (and adults for that matter) with poor grammar and terrible spelling.  But I still aplaud the kids coming out of college that have the tools and experience to master tone-by-audience.  Maybe GenX should take a cue from the kids and learn to speak their language.   

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